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My Father
-always with me-
Armond Wickham

1923 to 2006

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Sheldon Haudenschild

catches the fence.

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Black Rock

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The Crack

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Smoke at Sharon

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Black Rock
Leanin' on the RR

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Side by side
10 lap battle at Albany

November 2009

The previous two weekends wrapped up the 2009 season for me. The second weekend in November was time for the ASCS Patriot banquet and rules update meeting.

On the rules front, everything will remain the same except for a small change in wing rules that will allow a 2" wickerbill strip on a flat top wing and no wickerbill on any non flat wings. This will unhook the cars somewhat and provide a transition to "flat top wings only", in the future. In our area of the country there aren't many, if any tracks where we can run flat out without lifting but in other ASCS areas, the clay has enough bite.

Those flat out tracks don't create much passing so the sanctioning bodies have been trying to unhook the cars. I think that unhooking the cars is a good thing in general. It makes setup and driving more critical and raw horsepower less important. That keeps costs down and usually makes the racing more fun.

The other thing that sanctioning bodies have been doing to unhook the cars is to go to a spec tire with stiffer sidewalls and medium compounds. The Patriot group and ESS have been on a spec tire for several years and will remain on the same tires for at least the next two seasons.

The deal we have is with Hoosier tire. They supply us with the standard tire ( not stiff sidewall) at a reduced price and also put point fund money into our series'. This has worked very well for the series. It saves the racers about 10% on the tires and pays off at the end of the season in point money. It keeps the RR and LR tire issues simple with one basic compound that works pretty much everywhere for us.

No need for soft qualifying tires for heats and then guessing what compound will last or hook up for the feature with an open tire rule. ( Then what would happen is the compound (or brand) you wanted to run on the RR was the wrong size to get the stagger you wanted with the LR tire you wanted to use).

Fortunately we have not been part of the latest tire war. Now that the spec tire battle has been decided in court (American Racer tires sued to make spec tire agreements illegal - and lost), So now, Goodyear has decided to re-enter the sprint car market and has thrown money at sanctions, to change to their tire.

The Outlaws (Dirt, Boundless, World Racing Group, WRG etc...) continues to lose money as a business and latched onto the money that Goodyear offered to be the exclusive supplier of tires for the World of Outlaw Sprint Cars (money that probably won't find it's way to the racer). That move forced (sucked) many other series and sanctions to follow and put Goodyear back into sprint car racing.

The Goodyear tire never matched the performance of Hoosier over the last 10 years or so and that's why no one used them, along with them being a little more expensive. But if everyone is on the same tire, the Goodyear should be acceptable. At least there isn't an open tire war.

With all ASCS Patriot rules remaining the same, costs are kept at a minimum and that will keep teams coming back. Technical stability is what has kept sprint car racing universal and strong for all these decades.

It also appears that the ASCS Patriot schedule for next year will remain similar to the past few years (as long as Goodyear doesn't stick their nose in. There is a rumor that if Goodyear and DIRT can get ESS to switch to Goodyear, that "DIRT" aka WRG will sign ESS instead of ASCS to all the "DIRT" sanctioned tracks. That amounts to about half or more of the ASCS schedule).

On the Banquet front, the Patriot banquet was excellent as usual with about 100 people attending, $30,000 in cash was given out along with trophies and awards. The program moved along well as Rich Vleck, the ASCS announcer and PR manager put together a great show.

This years' figures showed that despite the economy, there were more races, more racers and higher average car count ( 28.+ ) than the previous years. For my part, I received 11th place money, which was almost three times the payoff for the same finishing position in a race. The money will help me with some upgrades for next season. I also received the Perseverance Award for making it to races on a limited budget and going alone on some occasions. It was nice to receive the plaque along with the point money and trophy.

The third weekend in November is the National Parts Peddler Trade Show in Syracuse. Corky has that operation running on autopilot for the most part and I help out with the sound system needs. As usual they auction off a dozen special items from new rear ends to compete New Modified and Late Model rolling chassis. For me, I set up and move the sound system around as needed. The trick is to keep the sound system from feedback when the auctioneer walks back and forth in front of the speakers but still keep it loud.

The show was full with some new exhibitors and equipment. It's always a good place to meet friends and learn the latest.

So '09 is over..., a lot was learned, some changes will be made, and that gives me the optimism for a better run in 20-10.

October 2009,

Well, we have put the 2009 racing season to rest. The car and motors are in one piece, race car perched on jack stands, fluids removed, metals oiled for winter.

With everything stored away for now, I have taken the remaining fall outdoor time to hustle the projects that were set aside while racing commanded my attention. Painting a rental house, repairing window frames, tarring a roof, fixing cars and tractors, cutting down dead trees, closing the pool that suddenly appeared in my mother's basement.... they all took my mind away from the 2009 season.

When I'm in the shop to use the workbench and tools, I always pat the tail tank and talk to the car. We did a lot together this year. I tried everything I knew to make the car fast. I avoided lots of crashes and didn't break (except  for the motor problems). Those are rationalizations to cover up what was mostly an uncompetitive season.

A look back is useful to enjoy the adventure and learn from the experience. One of my favorite sayings is "Good Judgement comes from Experience..... Experience comes from Bad Judgement". This season was certainly one of Experience.

A competitive person is never satisfied. Continuous improvement and beating the competition are necessary to keep the depression of failure at bay. Poor results from the previous race had to be replaced with the optimism that new ideas bring and the belief that problems would be solved and speed increased.

Problem solving is part of the racing challenge. It's part of the motivation and anticipation of the next race. "Your only as good as your last race" can bring you down but "Wait till next week" can keep you going. "You never fail until you quit trying" is what keeps you working.

After each race we would try to analyze the changes we made.... what we thought would happen, what we did and what really happened. Every race is a test. Every time the car is on the track is a test. Every test provides information about whether something works or not. Going from track to track makes it hard to know if it's the adjustment or the track. What really screws things up is when the results aren't what we expected... when the same adjustment give different results.... when adjustments don't seem to make a significant difference.... we were going in circles in the pits as much as on the track.

We didn't quit. Each race we would try some new combination without changing so much that we wouldn't know what the effects of any new change was. We made big changes and not so big. But for the whole season we never found any one thing that made the big difference we needed.

We had lots of theories and tried a lot of things. It was very discouraging and at the end, really left us with nothing to build on. We had lap times to look at from the transponder site, and at every race our best times were slower than the leaders by the same significant amount. All of our changes seemed to be fine tuning a bad setup.

We haven't been as good as we wanted to be for the past few years and I did all I could to make sure that there weren't any serious equipment excuses. We have built good motors, and put the car together with new frame, new bars, and quality shocks. We have dyno tested. We have taken great pains to make sure that there are no deficiencies in all the other pieces. We have measured and adjusted over a wide range and in the end, none of it has made a big difference.

Now...   it has to be recognized that we are not operating in a vacuum. All of our competitors lust for a win and are out to beat each other. So over the years, since the formation of the Patriot group, everyone has improved the quality of their equipment. In general, everyone's motors are much better, cars are light and setups better. There are few weak spots in the any heat race and the passing points system has no mercy. You can't slip backwards in the heats without starting in the back of the feature or sitting in the stands to watch. We are probably better than we were in past seasons but so is everyone else.  So what do we do now.

We've had some discussions with chassis manufacturers and other racers.   One in particular, Bryan, from PA contacted me and we talked by phone and got together to try to figure out what was wrong and what I really needed the car to do.  He had some information and ideas that will give us something new to try.   

There are some things that we can do to the chassis that are core changes to locations we accepted as  given.    They make sense and can provide a complete sweep of new things to try.  There will be some changes to the shock package also.   Either I will get Vince to re-valve his shocks or I will work with another company I've been in touch with to get what I want.

So I'm back in the loop of new things to try and old things to understand, change and reapply.  Lots of thinking to do over the winter about driving and setups.

I've got enough equipment, as we didn't use much more than a front axle this season.  Funds will be focused on resolving issues with the spare motor and getting it dyno'd again ( this time with Gus at H&G).  We'll work with the shocks, make some chassis changes and do the routine maintenance on all of our equipment as we head for 2010.

Wait till next year....


Sharon and Eriez 9-5 / 9-6- season finale in two acts.

The long hike to Ohio is justified for us by the two race weekend. Our previous trip on Memorial day weekend ended after the first race when we discovered the cracked block, sustained the week before. We are able to keep expenses down and save time on these trips by being able to camp out in Zimbardi's large race trailer when they park for the night after the races.

This season has been very disappointing. I thought I had all the parts and information in place this year to be very competitive. I had full belief in the parts and I even expected that this may be the season when we could contend for a win. But the opposite has been true as we fell back in most races and just never had the corner speed we needed to keep up.

Motor troubles compounded the problems adding down time and cost to an already frustrating year.

Greg and I had run the table on setup ideas. We had applied Vince's package of adjustments and variations to the letter, arriving at a point where we had nothing new to try that made any logical sense. As I thought about this last run of two races back to back I figured that it would be a good experiment to go back to the shocks we ran last year and a setup that would apply what we learned this year to what we've run in the past. It was worth a try. I wanted to feel what those Pro and Afco shocks again as a comparison to the VRP stuff. It would give me something to think about for the winter.... was it the shocks, the setup, my driving style, the car, the motor ?

We hit the road early for the five and a half hour tow. As we roll down the NYS thruway, less than an hour from home, I hit the brakes as traffic ahead slows and the brakes slow the truck and then the pedal goes to the floor. After several pumps I realize that I have no brakes- at all. I give my self some space and we continued to the next service area to investigate.

As I expected, a brake line was leaking. I tried pinching the line with vise grips but couldn't get a good enough seal so we hit the road with no brakes and started hunting for an auto parts store on the GPS that would be near an exit. After a couple of hours on the road, we needed gas and had chosen an exit that we knew had lots of businesses. The toll booth attendant directed us to a store that was nearby. With new brake line pieces in hand, Greg and I replaced the line in their parking lot, filled the reservoir and pumped out as much air as we could. We couldn't get the brake bleeder opened at the wheel and ended up with air in the system that we couldn't get out. I had about an inch of pedal before the floor but it was enough to stop as long as it wasn't an emergency. We hit the road, now running late.

When we got to the track the sprinters were already getting heat in their motors. We saw an open spot and unloaded as quickly as possible. After getting suited up and the car set to race, we headed for the track for hot laps. I pushed off for the first session and pulled to the infield to warm the motor. I ran the second session on a track that was pretty tacky. It was flat out.

In the pits Greg and I discussed the setup and decided not to change much. The car was turning in well and there wasn't much high powered racing on the track before us to dry it out. The scorer stopped by and told us that we were added as last car in the third heat... there were 36 cars in the pits. Making the feature was going to be a tall order.

In the heat everyone was fast. I fell in line and tried top and bottom to gain a spot. A crash late in the race took out two cars and on the restart, I dove hard to the bottom and made it past one car. With passing points for the cars that crashed and the one I passed, we made the feature from the heat and avoided the B-Mains. Finally Greg and I could concentrate on the car and setup changes and have some time to sit down. The car was pretty good in the heat. We didn't want to go too far but we needed to be ready for a drying track.... dust was already rolling up as other classes raced.

I was starting from 16th in the feature. There was a loose cushion that was moving up next to the wall. There was some moisture, tight on the bottom. At the start I ran through the middle of one and two, while the inside row made some ground next to the infield. I took the bottom in three and got a good bite coming off. The car was sticking for a change. I could pass getting in and coming off and had advanced three or four spots in the first few laps. There was a lot of give and take for positions in the pack of cars I was in. I'd lose a spot and then gain it back. There were a couple of cautions for spins that kept the field bunched up.

About a dozen laps in I got passed by one of the spinners and his tail happy RR nearly put me in the fence coming out of two. I steered clear and backed out but on the next laps, he and another car got together ahead of me, out of two. I lifted some and got the car hooked up to go low and cleared the flipping cars lost in the brightly lit dust. Then from my left I hear a wide open motor and BAAAMM. Some one behind me clipped my left front and broke the front axle. I couldn't steer but got the car stopped on the inside edge of the track and waited for the tow truck.

In the pits, Greg was ready with jack stands as the wrecker dropped me off. The car was the best it had been all year. We were competitive and moving forward. It looked like we'd earn a top 10. Damage wasn't bad.... front wing, wheel, axle, radius rod, tie rod and drag link...shocks were good. We put in a new front end and rolled the car on the trailer.... we would finish up the details tomorrow.

Zimbardi's had their problems but finished and parked across the road from the track. When we got up the next morning, we headed north on route 7 (with minimal truck brakes), for gas and lunch, on our way to Eriez Speedway near Erie, Pa, about an hour up the road and an hour closer to home.

We arrived to join a dozen other teams that were unloaded and working on their cars in the pits. We had to finish the repairs and reset the front end. The front brake caliper and line were OK so we kept it with the car and transferred it to the new axle. The replacement front end had a steel brake rotor instead of aluminum so I sorted through the box of pads to find a new pair of hard compound pads.

The sun was hot... the air was humid... it was uncomfortable but bearable. We had slept well but were sore and tired from the day before. We were both fighting through it to get the work done.

This track is a nicely banked 3/8 with walls all around but room for two wide racing with the cushion half way up the track. They had put lots of water on the track and it looked like it might stay good through the night. We hit the track in hot laps and the car was tight, even with 15 inches of stagger. The track was bitey and I could throw it in and still get around. Greg and I discussed the setup and decided to leave it alone and let the track come to us.

By heat time, the track had packed in and developed and hard, short cushion around the second groove. It was not forgiving and would trip you up it you got against it early. My draw of 13 put me on the front row and then pole car had motor trouble and scratched, putting me on the pole, next to the series point leader.

At the drop of the green, I race to the bottom of one. The car drifted across the middle and picked up the cushion coming out of two as the outside pole car railed the cushion and took the lead. My car worked pretty good at both ends and I continued to use the whole track , bottom to top at each end. I could get on the throttle just after entering or only half lift and get back on it and the car would sweep up to the outside of two or four and hook up on the exit cushion. I knew it would be tough for any one to pass but I didn't see anyone or hear any motors.

Apparently there was a little run out in the front rotor that was tapping the pads back. I had to double pump the brakes in the straight to get a solid pedal for the corner. It was charge the corner deep, a quick brake to slow the car enough getting in and back on it. The car felt fast and racy and we ended up second.

Although I lost one spot in passing points, I was still in the top 8 passing points for heats and made the feature top 8 redraw for the first time this season. I pulled #7 from the bag in the front straightaway ceremony.

For the feature we made some changes to tighten the car and a couple to loosen it, hoping to find a good balance for a drying track. Our experiment was paying off. The crap shocks from last season along with last year's approach to setup adjustments along with what we learned from Vince's setups, had brought back some of the side bite we lacked this season and the car was faster, more drivable and more competitive.

I was glad to be on the inside row. The cushion was short but hard and rough and would be a fight to run against. The bottom had some bite left in it and the open infield provided an escape route if there was trouble. Most of the first turn problems at this track have happened in the second lane or on the cushion and tonight's cushion could easily get someone out of shape. The middle looked pretty good too, as they pushed us onto the track.

When we put the car back together, the tire we put on the left front was a deeper offset wheel that we had along for changing the RF tire center-line location. On the left front, that tire was closer to the steering link and didn't allow as much left steering but it hadn't been an issue in the heat so we left it alone.

As we started to line up, I hit the brakes and the pedal went down and I remembered that in the heat it took two pumps to get pedal back, so I pumped again.... and again, and I never got anything other than the feel of pumping fluid out of the system. I had finally pumped the system dry and now I had no brakes at all. We are in the four wide parade lap and I'm thinking; should I pull into the infield... I'll get paid for last anyway.... how will I get through turn one.... Will the front end push if I go in slower.... If something happens in front of me, what can I do... If the car pushes, it doesn't turn as far to the left and it may be harder to get into the infield..... We roll around and break back to two by two, I buzz off the corner and let off, slowing the car but leaving some room ahead. We get the white and I decide to give it a try.

Off four I stand on it and about half way down the straight I have to lift to make the corner and give myself a gap to the next car, as the everyone bunches up entering one. I get passed on the outside and in two the front pushes out a bit as I get back on it. I get passed on the bottom and there is a car on the outside as we angle onto the straight.

Three and four is a little better and by lap two, things have strung out to single file and I'm starting to be able to charge the corners and now have enough room to see what the car will do. In a couple of laps I'm up to speed, entering the corners with a little kick out to brake the car with side bite.

The track was in pretty good shape and had some bite. I got a good rhythm going and stayed on the lead lap until about lap 18. Then on lap 20 there is a caution and I'm a lap down and restarting fourth in line. I want to make sure that I'm low enough for the leaders to race but I have to drive in and slide up a bit to get around the turn. There are still some cars behind me that are also a lap down, that I want to stay ahead of. A friend, running fourth, shows me the nose during the caution and I point to the outside telling them pass there, I will stay low.

The restart goes good and I'm surprised that the leaders don't drive away very much. I finish the race 13th and roll to the pits.

I took a look at the front brake and saw that the pin that holds the pads and both pads were gone. That let the pucks come out past the seals. I had put the pads in and I know I put the pin in and spread it. Don't really know what did happen there.

These two races are the best the car has felt in months. We'll have to evaluate what we did and what the tracks were like to see where we're at, but it was good to end the season with some progress. Even though the finishes weren't great this weekend, we were more competitive. There was more side bite and that was something that we have been lacking and it was something that we were focused on with this setup test. What we thought and what we did made a difference in the way we expected and that gives us some confidence toward figuring out our problems and refining the setup.

We definitely learned some things while struggling with the VRP setup package this year, that helped us understand our old setups better and apply some new tricks. The two nights of good runs also helps rule out doubt about it just being the track.

We were competitive and could pass cars and the car was pretty well balanced. I wished we could have finished the Sharon race... I think we could have been 10th or better and at Erie we could have possibly made it to 5th.

So now the Patriot point-season has ended and we made 75% of the shows and, as bad as we ran all year, ended up 11th in points. There were nearly 100 drivers that entered Patriot races this year.

We end the season with two cars together, two complete motors and the same wing we started last season with. I have lots of non racing projects that starved for time and money this year and now I will use the remaining warm months to deal with them. The winter will provide time to take apart, clean and re-assemble the car for next year. The spare motor will go to the dyno in PA. The trailer will get some updates and of course sooner than later, I need to bleed the truck brakes.

I'll keep making updates with plans and summary as interesting things come up....

Humberstone 8-29-09
In Ontario, Canada,  just 15 miles west of Buffalo is a nice little track called Humberstone. Our tour took us there for a Sunday night sanctioned show against the locals. The weather continued to be 50/50 with black clouds flying by all evening. We've been here twice before... once we were taken out early in the feature by a car spinning right in front of me and the other time it poured rain just as we pulled into the parking lot. When we arrived this time, the entrance road was dusty.

This track is a nice third with some banking and no walls, except in front of the stands, and it's pretty wide for a small track. They have a starting track off the second turn where they push off the sprints and let them drive around so they are ready to hit the track as soon as a race ends.

We still haven't hit on a great setup and have run out of new ideas. Greg and I discussed how the car worked last night with Zimbardi's while we were working on the car at their shop this morning. They have been in a slump also and although running much better than us, have lost their championship point lead and are desperate to turn things around. They offered a couple of small things to try that seem to be helping them.

With the basic setup in place, and a tweak, we hit the track for hot laps. I only got a clean lap or so as the car in front of me was having all kinds of trouble and getting in the way. The smooth surface was drying so we made some more adjustments to tighten the car a bit more for the heat.

At the drop of the green I can run with the pack but before we complete the lap, some one spins. As we roll around getting reset for the start, it starts to spritz a light rain. The track is OK and they hurry to start the race but coming off four, it is grease and we all half throttle it in to one and drift up to the cushion. They send us to the pits.

The rain only lasts 15 minutes. They ran the track in quickly and put a couple stock car heats on the track and then they called our heat back out. We quickly put more stagger on the car but didn't have time to take out other changes that had been made earlier to tighten the car.

The track was great, a little to great, and we were tight. I had to throw the car to get it to turn in but I could get it around the bottom and the surface was sticky enough that I could still get bite even though I was throwing it loose. I tried to get past the car in front of me on the bottom, but each time I dove under him getting in, he'd pinch the bottom coming out. If he went a little wide, he was still fast coming out in the middle. I felt like I could get past with just the right line. It was so tempting to keep trying the bottom.

As we were running out of laps, I decided that I had to try the outside to get by and moved to the outside going down the back straight. He also went in wide that lap and as we entered three, my left front was inches from his right rear and I was running out of room at the top. I steered wider and he drifted wider and then I had to lift to keep off him. Already at the cushion, when I lifted, the front end set down and the car pushed across the cushion and over the banking. I could see the rest of the competition going by on the track as I collected the car and got back on track and up to speed. I was now last and the race was over in a lap as I crossed the line. I was pretty pissed at myself.

There were 30 cars in the pits and the prospects of starting last in a 14 car B-main weren't very good based on how we've been running. I was disgusted with my heat run and decided to save the laps on car and motor and load up. We'll race next weekend.

Stateline 8-28-09
If they need rain in southern NYS, they should schedule a sprint race at Stateline. The weekend forecast was 50/50 with pop up showers providing the odds. Greg and I headed out for this two race weekend expecting that we would get at least one race in.

Stateline isn't my favorite track. It's long straights and tight turns isn't my favorite way to race but for some reason we've always done well there. The struggles this season have left us searching for a setup that will stick the car in the corners. We've tried everything we were told from manufacturer to fellow racer but can't seem to get any better. We came to this weekend with nothing new to try.

The draw put us 4th in the second heat. Rain earlier in the day had wet the track more than usual and it worked in pretty smooth and tackier than usual. Turns one and two faced the sun directly and were drying out but three and four were in the shadows and developed a rough cushion. The turns are so tight here that you end up throwing the car in. You can't roll into the corners at all at the bottom and not much at the top.

The track was fast and there was not much passing in the heats. Our finish put us in the dash. That would be a time to try some changes for the drying track. The car worked pretty good for the dash but had a mid corner push.

After the dash I discussed our changes with Greg. We were caught between knowing that the track was getting slicker from other races going on and not wanting to be too tight. We left the setup alone but made one small change. We were starting 14th. In the feature I was pretty even with the cars ahead. I could get under them getting into the corner but couldn't beat them coming out. The whole race was give and take but I never got past the car ahead of me and we finished 13th.

Brockville 8-22-09

We had made some progress at this track last time we were there so I decided to try it again. The weather was questionable but it looked like there was a reasonable chance to get a race in. Greg had been having some health issues and so we decided that it would be best if he stayed home to recoup. I was going it alone again.... there is usually someone around that will help out.

Some of the Canadian borders have been a royal pain for racers but the one at the Thousand Islands bridge usually goes pretty smooth. This time, a one car wait and no hassles. The weather cleared to bright, cloudless skies, hot and humid.

The pits were jammed with cars for a regular show plus the sprints. The schedule had us last for hot laps but the first feature of the night. Last time we were here the track stayed pretty good in the feature but the regulars told me that it varies week to week and it has gotten icy slick the past few weeks and there was little water put down tonight.

The track was still heavy in hot laps and the car was a little tight. Couldn't really get in good but figured the track would come to me so I didn't make any changes for the heat race except I increased the stagger to 15+ inches.

My draw started me 5th in the heat. The track hadn't changed any and it was fast for everyone. I was still tight in, on the bottom so I went to the cushion and the front end pushed over the cushion. I tried the middle and between three and four it had slicked off to ice and the car turned sideways with all that stagger.

Making no headway in the heat put me at the tail end of the feature. There were lots of heats for two classes of modifieds and other cars so I expected that the track would continue to slick off. I made some changes to tighten the car up, expecting to run the cushion.

At the start of the race my car was tight. The track had not slicked off but actually got better. There was bite, top to bottom. Way more bite than my car was set up for. I really got fooled. I went to the bottom where I could brake getting in and then get on the throttle mid corner, but had to break the push loose, to get out. The car in front of me was running the bottom so I'd have to wait for him to slip up, or try the outside.

I tried going in above him and the push just took me to the top where I lost ground by the time I got it turned. I tried the cushion but there was too much push and the only way to run there was break it loose and there was a good chance I'd spin or go over the banking. So the only thing I could do with this setup was the bottom. I tried a bunch of things to see if I could free the car, off the brakes, brakes and throttle, wide sweeps in but everything ended in breaking the rear loose. I just had the car too tight... even my starting setup for hot laps may have been too tight for the feature.

A few laps in there was a spin and when I checked up to avoid it, the car behind me got into me and spun me around. I stayed on the throttle and spun and backed into the infield, just missing a huge track marking tire that could have done some damage. A few laps latter there was a red for a flip. On the restart there was another flip.

As I sat in the car I thought about what changes would be nice and then one of the officials on an ATV's came along to put me in gear. They were still cleaning up the mess so I had them push me to the work area and one of the other team's crewmember ran over and I had him lower the wing one hole. It was the only thing I could think of that anyone could do for me quickly. When we restarted the race, the change helped a very little bit, but not enough to make much difference. I was still too tight and had to break the car loose. It was a good test and I learned something.

I could get a nose under the car in front but couldn't pass. It was pretty much nose to tail like that for the next couple of spots. There was a bunch of cautions during the race and they kept towing cars back to the pits. I survived and ended up 10th.

Fulton 8-8-09

I like to run at Fulton and it's one more chance to figure out what to do to get faster.  The track looked smooth as they rolled it in but not very wet. Hot laps scuffed off the thin layer of wet clay to reveal the hard slick from last race.

A good draw put me on the pole of the third heat. On the start I beat the car on the outside, and took the cushion going into one. Coming out of two was slick on top with no cushion but three and four had a small cushion all around. The bottom was slow but the short way around, the top had moved up but the car work pretty good there so I stayed on the cushion.

I could hear a motor behind me. After several laps, the series point leader appeared as he drifted up off the bottom and took the lead. Then a caution put another strong car on my tail. I stayed on the cushion but it was the long way around and another car got enough bite off the bottom to pass. In this race we were competitive and could stay with the cars that got by but I was still going backwards.

Our passing points put us in the dash so we decided to try some stuff for a slicker track. We made some changes and added something new to see if it would help. The dash would give us a chance to test before the A-main. We discussed the track and decided that the cushion was going to move up higher and that the bottom would be enough shorter that we should run there. In the race, I couldn't get around the bottom fast enough. Mostly couldn't get on it mid corner without slipping up off the bottom where other cars would drive by. They were obviously sticking better.

So Greg and Whip and I pondered what the track was going to do in the feature and what didn't work in the dash and tried to come up with the best idea for the feature. The bottom and middle were going to be where we had to be good. We felt the top was going to be too far around. So we did what we thought would work and it didn't.

I was on the outside row on the start and the car didn't stick to the top of the slicked off second turn and basically lost a lot of spots right there. I got to the bottom as soon as I could but got passed on the outside getting in. We were junk.

About half way, I parked it in the infield. I don't know what we are missing. I don't think the car has a mechanical problem... we've checked everything many times. We have been following the recommendations from the shock manufacturer and learned a lot from those setups but we are not going good on the slick tracks. I've talked with several other teams with the same shocks and they have had to come up with their own setups and no longer follow the recommendations. Some still use the shocks and like the quality and support but they've gone their own way on what to do with the adjustments.

The recommendations come from the shock maker's PA 410 and 358 experiences. There are enough differences in the weight, torque, speed and track surface bite, that what works there, apparently doesn't translate well to the really slick NY tracks. We have learned a lot by using the recommended settings but we haven't gotten the expected results. We'll have to keep experimenting until we can get back to being competitive.

I don't know whether it's me or the car but I think about Keith Kauffman's season. He started out the year with a team he'd been with for a decade... lots of wins and success. But this year he was going nowhere, running 15th and struggling to get to the top ten. I even watched him run a whole race at Port Royal on the bottom... very out of character. Well, he and the team parted mid season and he picked up a part time ride, filling in for an injured driver and he's back up front with a win last weekend (first for this owner) at Port and a third in the $15k to win race the week before. I'm not saying that I'm anywhere as capable as KK but when the car is not right, even the best struggle.

Black Rock 8-7-09

Our best motor was finally ready, after the block breaking incident at the beginning of the season at Black Rock. Ironically, we were headed back to the same track with this fresh motor. Thoughts that the track would still have problems had crossed my mind, but I hoped that they would have surface straightened out by now.

It was Nascar weekend at the Glen, just 10 miles down the road and this was Black Rocks big $4k to win sprint car race. They hope to draw in race fans from the Glen but it never happens. So instead they had 6 or 7 classes of racing and made their money at the back gate. The weather was good and as they rolled the track in, I took at look at turns 3 and 4 where there had been those long sweeping depressions. It looked smooth.

When we hit the track for hot laps, the cushion rolled up about half way up the banking with some large lumps. One and two had a real heavy cushion but at the entry to one, there were some really large lumps that were across the middle and top groove. There was one lane at the bottom but this lumpy area was in the turn after entry where you would have would have the car a little sideways. It was wet heavy clay about eight inches high and two feet wide and 10 feet long, across the track. In the groove near the cushion, the lump was followed by more lumps that were high and heavy. The cushion was rolled up with a lot of these lumps that made a heavy ridge.

This stuff was the loose cushion from last race that they graded down across the hard glazed surface and then watered and rolled in. This process works pretty good to hold water that can soak into the hard surface to give it some moisture. The loose stuff becomes heavy clods when its wet and usually it gets peeled off the old hard slick and makes a new cushion. It never blends or bonds with the hard slick but sometimes lumps won't peel up.

In hot laps, some guys ran the cushion and bounded over the lumps. I stayed on the bottom of one and ran under it. The rest of the track was drying out and the middle was getting slicked off. I lined up on the outside of the second row for the heat and was really concerned when I saw that the lumps had not been scuffed off or packed in.

At the drop of the green I ended up on the outside for the length of the straight and wanted to get to the bottom of one. At the end of the straight, the car inside of me was even and then I saw another car under him. We were three wide and I was on the cushion. I saw the car ahead of me get over the lumps but I lifted so that I could line up on them straight. The car following me decided to go under me just as I lifted and he caught my left rear tire with his right front.

When his front end came down he was in the lumps and the car dug in and flipped. Meanwhile, my car hit the lumps and flew through the air and came down on all four out in the loose stuff. I got on it and headed down the back straight and the red flag. I couldn't get the attention of anyone to bitch about the the track conditions during the red.

On the restart, I went to the bottom. There was good bite coming out but it was a bit loose for me getting in. After the checker, I stopped under the flag stand and told the official that came up that this track was not suitable for racing sprint cars and that they needed to put a blade on it. I learned afterwards that my complaint made it to the track owner and our series race director who argued with the owner for 10 minutes to get the track fixed but the track owner refused.

The track owner was trying to stay on schedule, inefficient operation and celebs from Nascar added to the length of the show so he felt he didn't have time to fix the track. Of course he did make time to clean up a flipped race car. He did continue to run the rest of the heats for all classes and then, put a blade on the track to move the heavy lumps and roll the cushion back. In the end, our feature went on the track at 12:30 and there was more racing left. Too many classes...

With 35 cars and passing points, my heat finishing position put me in the B-main. The track was now smoothed out and dried out and we were set up for the slicker track. I started fourth and was holding my own but toward the end of the race I couldn't hold off some strong cars behind me and ended up missing the a-main by one spot.

I rolled in to the pits and when I got out of the car Greg pointed out that the RR tire was flat and the rim was now on the ground. Closer inspection revealed a cut in the tread on this new tire. We probably would have made the A-main if we hadn't cut that tire. They put new clay on this track in the spring and it is full of rocks. The clay was never screened and there is exposed stone every 6 inches. Most are rounded but some are sharp.

The new motor helped but the bottom line is that we still are not fast enough. It's either driver, motor or setup. I have all the parts in place now so there is nothing I can think of that would hold us back. We're off a lot, not just a little. I am driving as hard as I can but maybe that isn't hard enough. It feels like I will lose it if I go any harder. It could be me or it could be that the setup is not working. Don't know....

Stateline 7-25-09
We got hot laps in and before any racing started, it rained.   Too bad, I drew pole for the second heat.

Arcade Raceway 7-24-09

We haven't been to this track since the beginning of the Patriot group.   The track is located in the rural center of western New York state and has been on the edge of non-existence for several years. This year it was spared when it was leased for the 09 season by a former sprint car family (who switch to crate latemodels).  

The track is a paperclip- third mile with a some banking and concrete all around and weeds growing out of everywhere.    The lighting is old and spotty and generally very inadequate.   When we arrived, the track was barely wet except for the front straight which was a slimy sloppy mess with water ponding at the inside edge of the track.   They didn't have any wide tire packers so they asked the sprints to run the track in.   When we got on the track we found that the sloppy straight was followed by a series of ruts and sink holes between one and two.   It tossed the car around running slow. 
In hot laps, the first turn was still wet and the rest of the track was dusty.  There were a couple of lines below or between the holes.

Greg had a screwed up back and wasn't able to go and Whip had his daughter for the weekend, so for the first time in decades, I went racing alone.  I expected that I would get help at the track and at a minimum the officials would get me out of the pits with their ATVs.  Zimbardi's may have some extra crew I could use.   At the track I pitted next to Zimbardi but they were busy most of the night so I handled the pit work alone.   We were pitted at the far end of the pits.

For the heat, I changed the car for a dryer track and headed out for heat #3.  
Getting around the holes in turn one was a challenge and I lost a couple of spots getting out of two as a couple of drivers took a route though the loose stuff at the top.
The car would get through three and four pretty good.

The line up for the feature set me in the outside of row eight.  The holes between one and two hadn't changed much and looking at all the cars ahead of me, I figured they couldn't all get though there with out a problem.    Coming out of four for the green and everyone was hard on throttle.    Dust was rolling up into the lights.  I held back a little bit.  The lighting was so poor that you couldn't see the variations in the track surface or the holes.   You just had to remember the line that didn't upset the car.  I decided I'd rather come out the other side than try to beat someone through the holes on the first lap.  I could see the cars ahead, filling the corner and everything looked ok and then, in the middle of one,  the car that started beside me pushed up into the car in front of me and started to go over.  

For an instant I thought I would have to line up on him to hit him straight on but as the tangle moved ahead of me,  I locked up the brakes and was able to pitch it sideways.   My car hooked up a few feet from the crash ahead and I lifted the brakes and darted down the banking, just missing the flipping car.  As I was looking out the right side to drive away from the crash,  I was hoping that no one was rolling through on the left side, on the bottom where I was headed.    I cleared the crash and sped out of two only to find cars all over the back straight from a separate get together.    I parked it in the third turn as the red came out.  

A complete restart and I moved up a couple rows.    Everyone gets through one and two and heads down the back straight.  As I get into three, there's a car flipping right in front of me.   I head between him and the wall and suddenly on the outside is another car headed for the same hole.    We bang wheels, he bangs the wall and the flipping car moves out of the way as the two of us just squeeze through. 
There had been weather in the area and so this time they just left the yellow out and we kept rolling around the track.  

I followed the group of cars ahead of me, expecting that we would catch up to the lead pack but after about 10 laps I realized that we were the lead pack and I was sixth in line!   Ten cars had crashed out, ahead of me in the two incidents.   I saw cars getting pushed or towed to the pits and other cars being pushed off and cars coming back out of the pits.  

They tried one more complete restart (no laps in yet).  I've always thought that the rule should be that you get one chance at the double file start and after that it's single file.   But nooooo, we go for the third complete restart.  Now I'm on the outside of row three and before the lap is done, there is a one car spin. 

 So now they decide to go single file and on the restart we have no problems.
The car setup was pretty good and the track was dry but not slick.    There was still some bite all the way around but it was tricky getting into and off, one and two.  
After a couple of restarts for some simple spins, some of the faster cars that had gone to the rear, were on my tail.    I raced one car that tried to get under me.  

A hole had developed right in the groove, getting into three that really upset the car.   You could get through it on the throttle but then you were too fast for the corner and would drift up the track.  Below it really pinched the entry and the outside was a long way around next to the wall.    With a nose to my inside off two, I had to go through the hole entering three and it got me up the track just enough that he drove in on the bottom and had better bite coming off.   He passed three more cars ahead of me.    I worked on the car ahead but could not get an edge.   Another car worked the outside of me for several laps and finally got by.

At the end of the race I was on the lead lap and 8th.   The result was good but the process was ugly. It was a matter of getting the car through the crashes more than around the track.   I'm still not fast enough and I'm working on everything to try to figure out what I can do to get going.   I'm a realist and don't get all cheery when a good finish isn't earned.   I know I have to pass cars or I'm just dealing with left overs.   Jimmy D is finishing up our other motor in a week or so and that may make a difference.

Brockville Ont. 7-18-09
We've never been real good here but we have some things to try, to see if we can get the car working any better.  At the shop I went though the car and measured and adjusted everything, back to the basic starting point.  At the track I talked to another team that is using this same setup package successfully to get their take on what I've been doing.  For hot laps the track was still wet and packed in.   The car turned in good and still wanted to push a little bit in the middle of the turns.   This little push was controllable and not like the way the car had been in previous races. 

The other team had about the same little push in the same way so it looked like we were close to right.   Without the big modifieds, the track was not drying out much.  We made a few small changes for the heat.

The track was very fast for the heat race and the car worked pretty good.  Of course most any setup works on a tacky track but for us it was an improvement for me not to have to fight the car in corners.

It was a real guessing game for the feature setup.   We had already made several changes thinking that the track would slick off, like the weekly racers pitted next to us expected.   After talking to the other team about their setup and how their car worked, we second guessed our decisions and loosened the car back up a bit, adding more stagger and not spacing the right rear in as much.  

In the feature the car was good.   On lap one, the pack charged into the first turn and everyone around me slid up off the bottom.   I was able to stick the bottom and passed three cars but they threw the yellow and I had to go back.   On the restart, everyone stayed on the bottom. 

I ran a few laps on the bottom and tried to pass,  low, coming out but the motor just didn't have enough to pull them on the short straights.    So after getting by one car and not able to get under the next, I went to the top.   The car handled well there also.   As I got a feel for the car and the track I got faster and started to pass, going in on the top.  I got by three more cars and  was trying to run down another when I tried a little to hard and got the RR into the marbles at the top. 

The rear started coming around and I tried to save it but I ended up losing it and went over the banking backward out into the grass.   I like tracks that don't have walls.   I was sliding backwards and fast in the wet grass and waiting for something to be there like a tree or a pile of dirt or a grader, but the car came to a stop in the darkness, way off the fourth turn and soon the 4 wheeler headlights were heading toward me.  

Back on the track, they pushed me off and I joined the back of the line.  With only 7 laps to go, I got past a couple of cars and finished 13th.    It was better than we had been for a while so we were happy, the car was in one piece and we learned some things about our car and our setups.

Brewerton and Weedsport 7-10 / 7-12
The motor problems were a big setback early in the season but only a diversion to the continuing handling battle that I can't seem to master.
Our recent races at Brewerton and Weedsport were disappointing.   I squeaked into the show at Brewerton  and finished 16th but was still not competitive at Weedsport (dnq).   Looking back, we probably had the car too tight.    That puts you in a place where you break the car loose to turn it and that makes the car feel loose.   It is hard to convince yourself that loosening up the setup will make the car feel less loose.   I always want to tighten a loose car but that just makes it worse.   
At least that's today's theory.   We've been following recommendations from the shock manufacturer and talked to other teams using the same stuff.  We don't seem to be far off on our settings but the car doesn't seem to have the side bite we need to get through and off the turns quick enough.
To compound the handling issues, the new motor came up short in the horsepower department.   The tuning of this motor was very finicky on the dyno.  We're going to change to a shorter nozzle and see if it helps this motor like it did with our other motor.
If the car doesn't handle, you can make up for some of that with a strong motor but if both are ailing, you're not going anywhere.
On the chassis side, we found a significant problem after the Brewerton race that we fixed before Weedsport.  But at Weedsport I think we again had the car too tight for the heat and B main.   So this week we are setting the car up at a much looser starting point and we'll try to tighten the setup as the track gets slicker, trying not to get it too tight. 
So for a time, the racing is going to be more like testing. 

Canandaigua 6-13-09
I don't know what to say.
We picked up the motor and spent Friday night putting the motor in the car and getting things ready for racing. Saturday morning we fired the engine, found a water leak and fixed it and headed for the track. The motor was flat right from drop of the green   in hot laps and the same flat in the heat. Changes to the fuel settings didn't make a difference.  The track was perfect and no lift fast and we weren 't competitive so I loaded up and watched.

Checking the engine on Sunday revealed a dead cylinder.  I'm out of motors.

I dropped the motor off at Jimmy's on Tuesday and within a couple of hours he had it apart and found two burnt valves and an over heated piston in one cylinder.  Nozzle wasn't clogged.  We don't know what happened.    Parts are on order and dyno time is being scheduled.

Cousin Tommy won an ESS race in Canada last friday.

June Update 6-1-09
As much as I tried to make it different this season, it has started out pretty crappy (not that the past few seasons have been all that stellar). Little by little I have been upgrading the equipment to stay competitive. It seems that every one else has been doing the same so just keeping up is about all you can do without spending a fortune. Of course even spending a fortune doesn't guarantee success. When Tony Stewart came to race with us last year, he had talent, all the best equipment and an experienced crew chief in Jimmy Carr and was only able to run eighth. Of course Donny Schatz ran with the group last year also and drove away. When your RIGHT and talented your hard to beat.

Last fall I dropped off an engine block at Jimmy D's for a new motor. I had planned to have it done by the end of January but I was never able to put the deals together on the other parts until the end of March. It would have been nice to have that motor together already, but it probably wouldn't have made a lot of difference in what has happened so far this season.

The motor we've been using the past couple of seasons has been a great piece and very reliable. This year's motor incident came when the car bottomed out on the rough track at Black Rock. Toward the end of the race, oil started to leak out around the front of the oil pan and after I found the pan bolts loose in the garage I figured I had found that problem and fixed it. I saw no reason to inspect further so I wouldn't have found a crack and I wouldn't have changed motors.   We wouldn't have carried the spare motor with us either so changing motors after Ohio to run Erie wouldn't have happened.

Back in the day I would have had a spare motor with me (when I had one), but now I'm racing for fun and trying to keep it simple. I'm basically set up for one race weekends and can race a second night if I don't have big problems. On any night, if I have big problems in the heat, that's pretty much it for me. A team well prepared for disaster, carries all spares and has sufficient crew that is trained to change anything quickly. Greg and I come race ready but leave the heroics to others.

I visited the motor hospital this week. My one patient had remarkably broken the whole front main bearing out of the block. It's amazing that the motor didn't self destruct but we've been using a timing chain instead of a gear drive and the chain draws the crank and cam together where a gear would push them apart. That probably saved the crank. Best I can tell, the piece was broken out after the heat race at Sharon and the motor still ran flawlessly in the dash and a few laps of the feature before I parked.

Of course I thought it was just a gasket that was out of place on the front cover or oil pan. Who would have guessed that the block had come apart and the engine would still run that good. So we have a new block being dressed for the dance with the rest of the internal machinery and that motor will be fresh and ready in three or four weeks.

Meanwhile, the other patient is being born from parts and pieces askew and should be ready for us to use at Canandaigua in a week. Heck of a place to break-in a motor. We won't have a chance to put it on a dyno so we'll set fuel by recommendation and seat of the pants.

Typically, any job will consume the time allotted so the motor probably won't be ready to pick up until the day before the race and we should be able to drop the motor in and be ready to go Saturday.

On the chassis front, I discussed the handling problems we had, with Vince and came up with a plan. The car would not go through the holes without bottoming out. We had the same problems at Sharon as Black Rock (only not near as bad) and to a smaller extent with a rut at Albany. After some discussion, our shock supplier suggested that he'll send us a RR compression adjustable so that we could stiffen up that corner if needed.

In general, the car has been much better than last year. My biggest problem has been to understand the range of the new setup. We're trying to be careful not to get the car to tight where I break it loose to get it to turn in. So far, we haven't had a 'turn in' problem with the new setup and we'll just have to try some things to see what the limits are (It's hard to test and learn when the test affects the race outcome and there are so few races in a season). That and getting better at guessing where the track surface is going should make us faster.

The last part of the package is the driver. Now that the car turns, it's a lot easier to run the cushion. Before, there was no certainty that the car would turn and driving in on top was a bad risk. Now we seem to be getting in really good but we're not getting off the corner fast enough. This is something that we are working on with our shock/setup supplier and as we learn the new system it's coming to us.

I remain the optimistic pessimist. I know we can do things that will make us better... but it would just depress me, if I wasn't ready for disappointment.

Sharon Speedway 5-23-09
This may not work but just for fun I'll give it a try.    Remember the Seinfeld episode where they started at the end and kept moving back through time to tell the story...

Wednesday morning I get a call from my cousin Jerry, Tommy's father, with the price on a new Chevy  block from the local Chevy dealer.    I'm 90% sure I will need a block, but I Jimmy hasn't pulled the pan yet.    We're parked for a couple of weeks.

Tuesday noon, I dropped the motor off at Jimmy D's shop and took a look at my new motor that Jimmy is doing.  It is at the dry fit stage to see what machining needs to be done for piston/valve clearance.   Then the crank will be sent out for balance, based on the new piston weights.

Monday, Jimmy won't be in until Tuesday after the holiday so we lose a day this week.

Sunday night, Long rides wear you out, especially after a short night of sleep.  After getting back from Ohio, it's time to pull the motor and put it in the back of the truck to take to the motor shop during my lunch hour Tuesday.    The motor is clean now but the rest of the car is an oily mess.    Now that the motor is out, I can get everything cleaned where you can't reach when the motor is in.   There will be plenty of time for cleaning now.

Sunday ride home, Now it's all clear, I know the cause of the crack.   Last week at Black Rock the track had these long depressions in the corners.   On pace laps you could not feel them but at racing speed the car would bound through them like waves.   On one lap the car crashed down so hard that I felt a sharp pain snap down my chest and back as the car hit and jerked.   
After that race, Whip dug a lot of mud out, that was packed up in the right side of the chassis around the headers and motor plate.    It was that huge hit where the oil pan dug in and yanked on the front pan bolts.  That's what broke the block.   After that the motor started leaking oil.  
In the shop I found the front two oil pan bolts were loose and tightened them thinking that the leak was only due to the loose bolts.    Now I know that the block was cracked then but I couldn't see it because it was covered with the motor plates.   I was really lucky that the motor didn't blow up at Sharon.

Sunday morning
, Greg wakes up first and I'm coming around as the sunlight brightens the inside of the trailer.  Once I get myself going I talk to Greg about the problem.  When I was falling asleep I tried to visualize where that crack would end.  I could see that the crack came up to the back of the front cover but when I took apart the front drive of the motor, in my head, all I could come up with was that the crack probably went across the front of the block, all the way to the back side of the front main bearing.  I told Greg that if that was the case, then we better cut our losses and just head home and forget about going to the Erie, Pa race tonight.   Greg and I were both tired and agreed that all the pieces were together and it would be best not to even start the motor again.

Saturday after the races,...  The plan is to clean up the front of the motor and take everything off the front and fix the oil leak which is hopefully only a sucked in gasket caused by loose bolts.  I couldn't find a timing cover gasket for the front drive cover but I know I can use silicone to seal it up and with a full night to cure, we should be good for tomorrow's race.   Greg and I get the generator going and set up the lights.   After wiping down everything with paper towels, we pull the radiator and front wing and start on the front motor plates.   We leave the car loaded on the open trailer and put a tarp underneath so we don't lose parts in the grassy field where we're camped, which is right across from the track.   Once the motor plate is off, I start looking for the gap where the oil would be coming from.  I quickly spot an obvious crack.  As I poke around, I see that there is a loose piece the size of a thumbnail, at the oil pan rail and then I see a small hole in the block near the corner of the cracked piece.   Back a few years ago, I took a nasty flyer in the maxim disaster that broke the two lower mounting holes out of the block when the maxim frame broke up.   Since then we have been using a motor mount that picks up the unused  block bolt holes for the stock water pump along with the remaining normal mounting hole.   When those mounting holes broke, it kind of split off half of the threaded boss but that was all that was damaged and we've been using the block for a couple of years since.   As I looked at the crack and the little hole closer I see another crack that goes to the front  cover.    I realize that if I pack this little cavity area with silicone and put the motor plates back on, it will act like a sealed cover and I can contain the oil leak and we can race this thing tomorrow.   We do our best work, button things up, shut down our generator, after the 3 hours of thrashing, and head for bed at 2AM.    All the other racers around us have eaten and drank and told stories and laughed and were already now quietly in bed.  

Saturday night,  I buy some extra Amsoil from Andrew with Don Adamczyk's team.   Greg and I pack up after the feature and check with Zimbardi's to see where they are camped.  They have a motor home with them and are letting Greg and I camp out in the trailer sleeper in their big rig hauler.  We have sleeping bags and foam mattresses and temperatures are very pleasant.  When I'm asleep on a race trip, surroundings aren't important.  I just need a warm dry place to stretch out and sleep. 

Saturday feature, I don't know now much oil is in the pan.    It's hard to tell how much we are losing.   I've been putting oil in each time I run the motor so it might be low or over filled.   We're starting toward the back and haven't been moving forward so I told the officials that would start the feature last and run a few laps to try some setup changes and then pull in.    No sense starting mid pack and risking a crash for nothing, but I did want to see if we could get the car any better.   With the changes we made, the car was a bit tighter and definitely drivable but there is still no way that I could drive through the sweeping depressions so I ran the cushion.  I moved past about 5 cars on the cushion.  I was as fast as anyone getting in but needed more bite coming off.  I pulled in after 6 laps or so.   The car trailed smoke all night as oil hit the headers but I never saw a low oil pressure light,  so there had to be sufficient oil and  I don't believe I hurt anything.

Saturday, dash, is a time to try something or to race for a better starting spot in the feature.  I dumped in a quart of Amsoil to cover the oil leak and headed for the track.   I'm still getting a feel for the range of this setup and need to make some changes from the heat.   The track is drying out and they are grading the turns to fill the depressions.   They are using a construction roller to pack the clay onto the sealed track.   It  will probably just get pushed out but it's all they can do.   I start at the back and finish there on this sweeping fast track.

Saturday, heat..,   A good draw starts me outside of the front row of heat one.   The track is very fast but I can't go through the depressions in the turns without the car bottoming hard into the track.  This is the same crazy problem that Black Rock had but only slightly better.   I've pumped up the shock pressures and left the stiffer bars in but I don't think it will be enough so I'll have to drive around the outside of the hollows at the cushion which is about three or more lanes off the bottom.   At the drop of the green I come off four strong and head for the cushion of one.   The car turns in and hooks up pretty good but starts to crawl into the loose cushion as I come off.   Each lap I back-peddle or let it drift up but either way, the lower lines are faster as a few cars get by during the race.   The car is far too soft to go through the hollows.   It bottoms out and upsets the car massively.    I need to have a stiffer shock on the RR for the holes.  I will discuss this with VRP shocks next week.

Saturday Pits... with the oil leaking out when the motor is running in the pits after hot laps, I can see roughly where the leak is and about how much can get out.   It's a fast drip and is coming out at oil pan rail level but it's in behind the motor plates so it's hard to see.   The oil runs down to a low point and drips off from there.   It looks like a leak that is ahead of the larger rotating part of the crank so there isn't much throw.   I add another quart of oil to get us through the 8 lap heat. 

Saturday at the track, since Dave Blaney bought this place, there have been a few changes.   The wooden covered grandstand deteriorated and was replaced with a nice new aluminum covered grandstand plus some open stands on each side and a nice high open stand in the back stretch for people in the pits.    The whole place looks clean ,new and respectable.   The pits were moved from the infield to an area off turn 3 and 4 but with the high banking, all view of the track is blocked so you have to go to the back stretch to see anything.    The track itself is wide with walls around the outside.   It has been shortened from the original half to four tenths.   The wide half mile sized turns sweep smoothly into the wide straights.   No wonder it's a no lift short track.   I met some fans that remembered me and the Parts Peddler 80 from way back.

Saturday 10am heading toward  Sharon Speedway on the Ohio border with PA.  The two days of racing with Sharon and Eriez Speedway (where we usually run well) nearby makes this trip worthwhile.   I raced at Sharon 25 years ago when it was  a fairgrounds type half mile with an old wooden covered grandstand.   They have been racing there since the 20's but when I was there it was the weekly racing home of the Blaney's, Lou in the modifieds and Dave in the sprints.    When I was doing work on my motors at Hutter's Engines in nearby Chardon Ohio, I would stop by to run Sharon on fridays on the way back to Port Royal's saturday races.   We would also come out to the Sharon Nationals and Outlaw and Allstar races at Sharon as well.    I had some good runs there including a B-main win at an Outlaw show where I beat Leland McSpadden in the Jensen Construction 55 and Danny Smith in the Gambler house car.   Those were two stout operations at the time and legendary outlaw teams from the 70's and 80's.   Another time I ran a solid second to Dave Blaney on a regular Friday night show.   There were good finishes and some bad crashes there.   The fans liked seeing me come in as a competitive outsider.   Lots of memories and stories.  I have been looking forward to going back there.

Black Rock 5-15-09

There is a love-hate thing with Black Rock. It's a really nice facility with a well built fan area, grand stands and concessions, the track has a nice layout with few walls and the lighting is very good. They have been one of the biggest supporter of sprint car racing in NYS and the latest owner has done his best to maintain and improve the place.

The latest "improvement" has been a disaster. New "clay" was added to the track last fall and the track was reconfigured. The opening day race (luckily not a sprint race) was on a track so rough and rocky that motors were blown from holes in oil pans, and suspensions and frames were damaged, cars were flipped.

After hearing about the opening day disasters, and the extreme actions that the track owner has since taken to fix the problems, I wasn't too concerned about going there. I like running at Black Rock. The surface has usually been smooth with no grip and no tire wear, but very raceable.

Whip and Greg were at the shop and ready to go but Greg had come down with something the night before and had been sick all night and morning. He was sick with something else last week and now was throwing up, so we decided it was best for him to head home. Greg really pushes himself when it comes to racing but it was clear that he wasn't going to get better at the races.

When we arrived in the pits, I took a quick look at the track. It didn't look much different than years past except that there was a lot of dirt piled up in the infield and the inside of the turns was all torn up. Apparently they tried to shorten the track for some reason and had abandon the idea and put the track back to it's original size.

Everything was ok when they pushed me off for hot laps and I ran around the track at idle. This place has always been dusty and with sprints on the card they had over-watered the track to try to keep the dust down. Now we had a wet lumpy surface. When they dropped the green and I hauled off into one and then three, the car bottomed out a ton and jumped around as I tried to run the cushion which had developed about mid track..

It took a few laps to figure out what was going on but somehow the corners had developed long waves of depressions that you couldn't see or feel until you drove over them at speed. Everyone was bounding through the turns. The only place that was smooth was the very bottom. The cushion was the fastest way around and you could deal with the waves if you could stay on the throttle and try to float over them.

At the drivers meeting, I drew a 4 and that put me on the pole of the first heat. We drove into one and I had to fall in behind the outside pole car and pick up the cushion. I ran most of the heat in second and got passed with a clean slide job late in the race, by last year's series champ. The cushion was a handful but the fast way around. The car was fast and I finished ahead of some very good cars.

The third place finish in the heat put me outside pole in the dash. The four lap race would let me test a setup change for the feature. Before we got on the track, they graded the track and took down the cushion which left a wet, fast third lane. It looked like the top would be fast and smooth. I drove hard into one and bottomed out, sending me wide and letting the cars behind get through. After a couple of laps of beating the car I pulled in - nothing to gain.

I didn't know what to do for the feature. The track was getting slicker across the bottom and middle but the top was fastest. There would be a latemodel feature before we got to the track and I expected that they would build a good cushion at the top and push it high..

The top was where I expected to run, like we did in the heat. I didn't want to put any push in the car, so Whip and I changed bars to deal with the bottoming and took out a little stagger and got ready to start the feature in 14th.

As the pack charged into one, a car spun in the middle of the turns and I was able to sweep high, hoping he wouldn't back up the track. I got by and pulled back in line for a restart. The track had been spun dry by the latemodels and the cushion was about mid track where it had been all night. On the restart I used the cushion in one and had the same problem as the other races. Three and four were worse. The car bottomed out so hard that it actually hurt. I wasn't making headway, the top was way too rough to race... I had to go to the bottom. We were too loose on the slick part of the track. Everyone had avoided the holes all night and polished the bottom. I stayed out for seat time but wasn't tight enough on the dry to go anywhere. 19th was not what I expected.

I wasn't ready for the new Black Rock experience. The new clay is a big problem for them and me. It is full of stones of all sizes but they are all round river washed. The clay has most of the same characteristics as the old surface, no tire wear, dust, soft enough to take a shoe print but slick. The track packed in very lumpy. The stones are a new thing. They push down into the surface with their rounded heads exposed. Some got kicked up and twanged the rock screen and visor but most stayed in place. Everything in the pits was covered with a layer of dust.

I could deal with everything except the rough surface. Hope they get it fixed.

Albany Saratoga 5-1-09

The season is finally underway. The first race for ASCS Patriots was scheduled for Fulton Speedway with a makeup feature from last season and then a complete program. However, only a few weeks before the race date, the speedway was sold and the new owner delayed opening because of all the work that had to be done to fix up what had been neglected by the last owner. Fortunately the new owner is a racer - an owner of three or four of the top Dirt Modified teams, and wanted to make sure he had a place to race. He bought Brewerton and Fulton and has the money to clean up the operations.

He also hired Harvey Fink, the track owner who had sold the tracks three years ago, as the manager for both. Harvey always ran the show off fast and had a good surface to race on. But Harvey would only tolerate sprint cars as a crowd draw and didn't like how long it took to get them started. It slowed down his show. Yet, he always had a couple of sprint shows each year.

So the race at Fulton is moved to Aug 8th and that left the first weekend of May open and Black Rock Speedway decided to move their race from May 15th to May 1. Well, that was until it rained hard the day before and rain was predicted for the Friday race. They pulled the plug on Thursday and put their date back to the 15th.

So that moved the opening race to Albany-Saratoga Speedway in Malta, NY, which had been second on the schedule all along. I had never been there before but had heard about the place since I was a kid. The reputation came from Pete Gillette who kept his stock cars at his Shell Station in town. It was a daily stop on my paper route. His yellow #15 or later #45 sat in the back, right rear, bay of the long garage. Later on, his son Donny had his sprint car in the right front bay.

Pete would talk of going to or having raced at Malta. Pete's cars were good and he had many top drivers over the years. He raced to win and was always up front. The stories were usually only a few remarks about how they did - I was only a little kid and he wasn't having a conversation with me - but the fact that he spoke of racing at this far off place always stuck with me. It was paved when Pete's cars ran there but some time ago they covered it with clay.

For the first time, Greg was not able to go racing, he had come down with the really big disease that left him with no strength for racing. Although he wanted to go, he hoped it would rain out so he wouldn't miss out on the fun. The forecast was 50-50. I considered staying home or going alone, hoping to pick up some crew at the track. I made some calls and found Joe August Jr at the last minute. He raced with ASCS last season but this year is only going to run close to home. Joe and I headed east in the early after noon.

The track turned out to be a nice 4/10 mile, properly proportioned and wide. I was surprised how easy it drove and raced. There was plenty of room and no walls on the outside. The walls on the inside were concrete barriers that were clearly needed to keep cars from passing in the infield. There was little banking and not much depth to the wet clay. It packed up hard and smooth, except for a long open wound that was part long rut and part long lump, that remained in the second lane of turn two all night.

The locals said it would be all around the bottom and if there was any cushion, it would be slight and a long way around. I tried bottom, middle and top in hot laps. My draw of 44 out of 50 put me in the back of the heat. Sprints were up first to beat approaching weather. The track was fast and still sticky enough that passing was at a premium. A couple of problems for others moved me far enough ahead to avoid the B-main.

I ended up running the mid-pack, four lap dash to set positions 12 to 18 but before we got that to the track, it rained lightly for about a half hour. An hour later we were running the quick race. The track had sealed, in earlier racing and the rain had not soaked in. It was sticky but drying and would slick up for the feature.

I called Greg and we talked about the races I had run and some setup ideas and then went to work with Joe to make some changes. It was confusing to know what to do. The car felt tight but couldn't get through the corners fast. I felt that what ever I did to get side bite would make the car tighter getting in, forcing me to break it loose to turn. Lots of choices in our new setup package and not a lot of experience. I made the changes that I thought would work best and checked the line up.

I would start 14th. Not too bad considering the bad draw, 28 cars with 22 to start and passing points. At the drop of the green I drove into one in the middle, looking for a hole. Everyone was bunched up and as it strung out though the other end, I realized that we weren't stuck as good as most. I tried different ways of getting into and off the corners but was loosing ground and positions.

Around lap 14 the leaders came by at the top. I moved to the top to see what was there and the car hooked up pretty good. In fact the leaders weren't pulling away and I was starting to pass some of the cars that had passed me earlier. The last 10 laps showed that we weren't too bad where the track still had some bite so I just hadn't gone far enough with the setup for the slick.

I ended up 16th, which was disappointing and I was junk on the slick, but when I got up to the cushion, the car was pretty fast. I should have moved there sooner. I learned some things and can see where to improve next race.

Shortly after we rolled off the track, it started to rain again. I called Greg.

April 2009
With the first race just weeks away, things are coming together.    Stuff doesn't always go as planned but the alternatives have been productive.  

I took two trips to Pennsylvania to get the setup from the shock supplier that we are working with this season.   Corky put together a deal with VRP shocks in Reading.   We were originally putting a deal together with Shadow shocks but that fell through and now it turns out that VRP really has the best package for me.  
We've been struggling for a few years trying to get a handle on the the car and Vince from VRP not only has the shocks but a whole setup package that goes with the shocks.    It's different from everything we've done and makes sense, when all aspects are applied.  

Vince spent a total of 5 hrs with me in his shop to go through everything from wings to tires.   I'm ready to try something different and this approach looks good.

We had planned to test at Brewerton and Fulton Speedways but that those test sessions were cancelled and the only one left before racing was at Weedsport.   

Greg and Whip towed the car to the track for the Thursday evening open test and had everything set and ready when I arrived after work.   In the first session, I hit the track with a medium setup for a dry track but the track was already icy and the car was loose.   The good thing was that it was a very controllable loose.   The car turned in and was balanced in the turns and stable in the straights.   

Next time on the track, we had changed bars, stagger, wing angle and shock settings and got the car just at the edge of tight.

I made a quick call to Vince from the track to discuss what we did and what I felt and he made a few suggestions that we tried.   It did what he said it would and made the car turn in better.  

We needed more test time but three sessions on the track is all there was.  The track was so icy that I could spin the tires at any point on the track and had to really soft peddle to try to hook up the tires coming off.   We still need to work on side bite and forward bite with this setup on a slick track, but in general we were very pleased with the stability and predictability of the car and setups.    We are really trying to get to the front and this looks to be a big step in that direction.

On the engine front, Corky has been trying to do a deal for the rotating assembly and finally was able to put the deal together.   After a wait for the pistons to arrive, everything is now at Jimmy D's and waiting in line for him to get to.   Hopefully he will get it done in a month or so and hopefully we won't need it.

First race at Fulton has been postponed and Blackrock stepped in to swap their date for Friday May 1.    That will be a good place for us to get started.   They have reconfigured the track and added new clay.    They had big problems with the surface on their opening day but are working hard to get the track bugs worked out.

Pit crew help is welcome.   Drop a note if you are interested in traveling with us or meeting us at the track....        [[[]]]

March 2009

Well, it's march already and we're running out of winter. A recent trip to Pennsylvania and the Lincoln speedway 410 opener put a little methanol exhaust in the nose to spark the racing bug. It was a chance to see some friends and talk and watch some racing.

Motor parts are still waiting to be ordered as special deals take time put together, but saves money. I had hoped to be able to fire and test the new motor at one of the test sessions at Brewerton and Fulton but it looks like the spare motor won't be ready for a few months.

Greg and Whip have helped at the shop as we go through the car and fix and build spares. Having spares hopefully means you won't need them.

The schedule is out and has races at most of the tracks were at last year with a few new ones added and a few we haven't been to. The plan is to go to as many as possible this season. There are only a few that we might have to pass on. It really depends on how dialed in we are, price of gas, and the availability on funds. Teresa is still out of work but able to handle her financial responsibilities with unemployment. So far, my company appears to be stable... but who knows.

Looks like the ASCS proposed rule changes for wings will be a soft transition where older profiles will be allowed without the wickerbill kick up at the trailing edge. That should equalize with a flat top with a wickerbill. This will allow me to use up what I have on hand (hopefully not too fast though).

All rules have remained the same for 2009 except for a modification of the passing points qualifying system in the heats. As before you will get a fixed number of points for where you finish and additional points for each car you pass but now you will get a deduction for positions lost. This will help equalize a car drifting back from the front row with a fast car starting at the back. This helps fix the bias that the system had for anyone who finished up front. We will still draw for starting positions in the heats and then the top 12 in passing points will re-draw for starting positions in the feature. There will be a feature starting position dash for the cars 13 to 18 in passing points and the rest go to the B. The next improvement should be a 24 stating line up at every race instead of 22. It would be good to have a sponsor to add 2 starters to the field.

February 2009
Greg and I have been working in the shop to get some spares together. It always takes longer than expected. But the result is an increasing inventory of spare parts and pieces.

Jimmy D has the block ready for the new motor and now we know dimensions for the other parts and are waiting for the JE Pistons, Callies Crank and lightweight rods.

I had decided on a new shock manufacturer but recently found out that their shock price is now substantially higher than what had been quoted to me, so it looks like I will go with the better known Penske or VRP but haven't decided yet. Both companies are building a quality part that has reliable shock rates and they will work with you to adjust valving as necessary. We'll see what deal we can put together.

Corky at National Parts Peddler is working with these manufacturers to get us the best deal on parts and hopefully help strengthen the mfgr relationship with the Parts Peddler in the process.

The ASCS banquet was at the end of January, instead of early December as it has been. I had put most of last year out of mind but the get together brought back memories of last season and a chance to talk racing with other teams. It is always a well attended event and always very well done by Rich Vleck, Mike Emhoff and the rest of the Patriot's support staff.

Our 15 place finish in points was not as bad as it sounds. We didn't go to about 1/3rd of the races - that will kill you in points. Despite the low finishing position, we received a nice trophy and some needed cash. In addition to the season point fund was a Central New York series point fund where we finished 10th and received an equal amount of cash. Other contingency awards were part of the prize package but they are mostly discounts for product, most of which I am not able to use... but still a nice gesture by the manufacturers.

Lucas Oil has put big money in ASCS national tour and only two other ASCS regions, the Patriots being one of them. That along with other sponsor commitments for 2009 will double the point fund for next year.

At a rules meeting before the banquet we were told that they have renewed a deal with Hoosier for tires and we will stay with the same program as before (a very good thing). Costs are higher by about twenty dollars but still thirty dollars less than the same tires are selling for in Central PA, plus Hoosier puts money in the point fund.

ASCS wants us to change to the flat top wing next year, which is now becoming a universal spec for Outlaw, AllStars, PA and ASCS national. I see it as a big problem. The reason they are changing is to unhook the cars so that they are not totally locked down and running flat out without lifting. It will put some sport back into the racing where the tracks are sticky. But NYS tracks are like ice and we really don't have that problem.

Changing to the new wing is expensive. Because this is new, there isn't any used stuff available (lots of dished wings available). Because of the wing spec, you can't change the wing profile easily without taking out every rivet and starting over. Then you would only have to change a few internal pieces but it would take more time than building two wings from scratch. New wings cost $500 to $700 and then you have to paint them which cost only $25 to $50 for the paint but lots of time for prep and you need a place to do it. Or you can take it to a paint shop and pay to have it painted for a couple hundred. Then it needs to be lettered. That costs another couple hundred and it's a pain to get the guy to get the lettering done on time, and you have to take it to his shop.

So a racer is looking at about a thousand dollars for a new painted and lettered wing. I have 9 of the dish style (currently legal) wings that I picked up for one to two hundred each. The change brings no benefit to the racer in our area, or to the fan or the track. And the ESS series isn't changing so you would have to have the current wing there, to be competitive. Let anyone use the flat top wings and maybe give them more wickerbill or something but don't make the existing wing obsolete... it's just too expensive.

Transponders will be required next season with ASCS. Last year we voted against using them because of the added cost and we have a great scorer. This year the price for them is one hundred dollars more and ASCS headquarters made them mandatory. The nice feature of the system is that the computer at the track that tracks the laps, is hooked up to the internet site of the transponder company and uploads all of the lap times. Each car uses the same transponder everywhere and the company gives each car a web page on their site with all that car's lap time information. You can go to the page and see all your times for every lap on the track plus more info. It's a neat system. Between the cost of the transponder and the cost to register with ASCS for 2009, it took all of the point fund money. Still, better than coming out of pocket.

Economic recession was not a theme at the banquet. The series has more races at more tracks for next year. They have broken down the schedule into mini series in a geographical area with four to eight races and each mini series has a point fund. They have more money in the season point fund and have added over a grand to each race purse. All of the added money is in the top dozen positions.

With added money, I would have first put money in the purse to add two starters. For some reason ASCS always starts 22 cars. I don't know why but it probably is to keep the purse lower for the promoter. Huge to his credit, Mike Emhoff, the manager for the Patriots has added two starters and paid the last spots out of his pocket at any race where 23 or 24 cars show up.

Why not take some sponsor money and make it a 24 car field every race? Racers spend lots of time and money and tow for hours so that they can race the car. Few if any racers do it because they are making money... we just hope to cover out of pocket race weekend expenses. We DO all of this to race the car!!! If there is extra money, add it to the purse and start a full field. You can say that the sponsor has added money to win or what every makes them happy, just shuffle the purse around so that as many cars as possible get to race.

So back to work. Lots of things going on beyond racing stuff right now. Teresa was laid off with 60 others where she worked. She is on collecting unemployment but very actively looking for a job (along with a million others). If you know if an office, receivables, payables, etc spot that might be open, send an email to me. My company is in very good shape but if business slows from our customers, it could get ugly.

January 2009
This is the time of the year to wrap up one season and look toward the next.

I made some progress in '08 but not what I had hoped for. The engine problems were of my own making. I screwed up our good motor and missed out on early testing and a couple races. Then I wouldn't have needed to go the spare motor which blew up on it's third race. That motor didn't have very good power so the only good thing about the blow up is the motivation to get a good spare together.

On the chassis front, the new frame definitely made a huge difference in being able to get a grip on the handling. I should have put new bars in the car at the beginning of the season. The beneficial part of just changing the frame let me feel what a new frame alone did for handling. Then going to new bars really got us on track.

The difficult part of solving our problems is that we didn't race often enough to test out the changes. With all the rain, we only ran a dozen races for the season, which is a joke compared to the 60+ races I used to run each season in PA and twice as many in our normal season now. Once we did get our ducks in a row we were competitive and had some good top 10 runs and finished the season with the same wing we started with.

Looking toward next season, we're just going to pick up where we left off and use the winter to be prepared. The motor only has a few races on it since it was freshened so it will be good for next season and we've gotten the bugs worked out of the setting for the new injectors.

We have gathered parts for a new second motor that is being built by Jimmy D. This piece should be as good as the one we have now, with lightweight rotating components and new ASCS legal heads. If all goes well, we won't need it.

On the car side of things, we will go over everything to check for wear, cracks or damage as we clean and grease all moving parts. My annual flea market adventures bolstered the supply of spare parts. This winter we will be building front ends and repairing pieces that we damaged and set aside during the season. There are a few new fabrication projects on the board also.

The last thing on the list is shocks. After much testing and research I've decided to step up to a better brand of shock and sell off most of the Pro and Afcos that we've struggled to work with. I expect that this will be the remaining part of the setup puzzle solution for me. I've always needed a car that works to be competitive as a driver. Some guys can drive anything and can make up for a bad handling car. For me, I realize that if the car doesn't work, then I'm not comfortable and don't take chances.    So the ongoing project is to get the car to work like I need it to and we'll be fast.